The Q&A Archives: Sick Tea Olives

Question: My Tea Olive shrubs (?) are not doing well. I have fertilized them with Miracle Grow but they are just not healthy. The leaves are sparse and after a recent rain several leaves have turned brown at the tips. I love the Tea Olive please help me bring them back.

Answer: Tea olive is a large upright shrub that can reach 20 ft tall and 6-8 ft wide, but is usually seen in landscapes at 6-10 ft high. The opposite leaves are a dark, shiny green and the edges may be finely toothed or smooth with both types present on the same individual. As the plant matures, most of the foliage is held at the outermost ends of the stems, but the plant retains a handsome appearance despite the legginess. In autumn, winter and early spring white flowers cover the shrub. It also blooms sporadically throughout the summer. Individually the blossoms are small and inconspicuous, but the fragrance is powerful and exquisite. Tea olive is rather slow growing and is usually quite long lived. Tea olive prefers reasonably good soil, but is adaptable except in the poorest, sandy soil. May be pruned to maintain size and encourage branching, but thrives equally well with neglect. Tea olives are sometimes attacked by scale insects, but usually only when growing conditions are poor. Osmanthus grows in full sun to partial shade; morning sun with afternoon shade, or high, shifting shade is ideal. They appreciate moist soil but will adapt to average soil. If the foliage began showing distress only after a soaking rain, it could be that the soil isn't draining quickly enough. Another possibility is that the leaf margins are showing salt burn from over-fertilization. Aside from these possibilities, I can't think of anything that would affect your Tea Olive.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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